I’m continuing in my Instagram series about answering the questions you’ve sent me. One user asked me, “How do you run a business as an artist?”
Whoa… where to begin? Hang on a sec as I put my hair into a ponytail and crack my knuckles (yes I crack my knuckles and yes I am aware it is a disgusting habit, just can’t quit). This is a huge question mainly because there are so many ways to be a professional artist. I can’t tell you or anyone else how to run a business as an artist because that choice remains in your hands. I can tell you the ways in which I make money and where I focus my efforts, and I can also tell you, where I don’t focus my efforts. In this post I’ll be focusing on representation. In the coming weeks I will discuss how I spend my time, and my money as a self-represented artist.
I am a self-represented artist. That means that I make, market, and sell all of my own works and products. I’m not under any exclusive contracts that mandate where or when I can sell my works. Some galleries and art consultants require exclusive contracts, I don’t work with them.
Many people argue that no artist should be self-represented because that means the artist has to run a business when they should be focusing on their art. That is true, I spend a lot more time on running my business than on painting, however it is also very important to me that I control the access to my art. I want to make all of the marketing decisions. I want to make decisions of inclusion; I do not want to leave choices like that to gallery directors or art consultants 100% of the time.
That is not to say I don’t ever work with galleries or art consultants. I have in the past, I plan on it in the future, but I’m pretty picky about the ones I want to submit to. Here’s why I’m picky. First of all, most galleries charge astronomical fees to exhibit, whether that be for wall space, time on the wall, or just taking a huge commission off of each piece you sell.
In some galleries, after all my painting expenses, time, transportation, and the gallery fees I would earn only 25% of the listed price of a painting. So if I sell a $1000 painting, I’m only earning $250. It suddenly makes a $1000 painting seem like small potatoes. Not every gallery works this way, but it is pretty common.
I only work with galleries that are artist friendly, transparent, and with whom I can agree on their vision and mission. Another thing is that I simply do not fit with a lot of galleries. I think every artist should look long and hard at the history of a gallery and study it’s past exhibitions to see if they are even a good fit. Some artists will submit anywhere and everywhere, and I think that’s a waste of my time and money.
Being self-represented I keep more of the margins of my sales because I don’t have to split them with a gallery or consultant. I can mass produce prints and home goods and market different priced products to different socio-economic classes to 1. Make sure more people have beauty and life in their lives, and 2. To expand my sales ability to different markets. I can also control the marketing of my work, I can hone in on my more ideal clients based on different marketing tactics that work well over long periods of time.
When given a commission from a third party like an art consultant, they might not always be an ideal client. If an art consultant brings me a client who picked my painting out of a book they know nothing about me, my mission or vision behind my work. I enjoy bringing in my own clients because usually they have been following me for a while before they decide to purchase, they know me, my vision and prayer to bring beauty into their life, and they are almost always more ideal clients than someone sent to me out of the blue.
That’s just a little bit about running an art business on self-representation. In no way do I look down on gallery representation or art consultants. In fact it’s always a point of pride and honor to be featured in a gallery! I 100% support gallery representation. I’m just saying that for myself, and as a way to support myself as an artist, it’s not always the most feasible method for me to earn a living. But I do end up submitting to probably 5 gallery shows a year as a way to meet people in the community, support other artists and galleries, and because, for me, gallery shows and art consultants are fun as long as it’s not an exclusive relationship!
Next week I’m discussing where I spend my time, the following week is where I spend my money as an art business. Like or share this article with your friend who is an artist, submit any questions to me below, or at my email firstname.lastname@example.org
Header image by Klaire Dixius Photography
A couple of weeks ago I took to Instagram story to ask you all if you had any questions for me, any particular topics you’d like to see addressed on the blog. So I’m going to be addressing them throughout the coming weeks. If you have any other specific questions that arise as a result of this series, feel free to comment on with your question. The first question I’m addressing was from an Instagram user, who asked, “How do you get inspiration for all of your pieces?”
I love this question because it’s one I never think about. Getting into a creative flow state has always been something that has been pretty easy for me. It’s like being on autopilot and the paint just sort of moves through me onto the canvas.
I’m inspired to do a new collection or new series usually based on events going on in my life, struggles I’m dealing with, pains I’m trying to work out, joys I want to share, and beauty I want to spread despite struggles.
All of my works are made with the intention to bring beauty, light, life, and hope into the lives and spaces of my collectors. I want all my works to inspire others to look around and be thankful for the good and beautiful things in their life. I want others to choose to go out and make something beautiful themselves.
Each collection is usually inspired by a mood, an idea, a thought, or an emotion I’m dealing with. I’ll give you teaser for my next series…. it’s darker than almost all of my other collections, but I hope it’s still beautiful and life-giving.
For each individual piece, they just sort of flow out of the emotion I’m putting into it. There’s no solid plan, they just emerge when they are ready, and they are finished when I feel like their emotion has been expressed.
Music, and what I’m listening to also greatly impacts my works. I’m constantly trying to cultivate and peaceful, calming, light space and so the music I listen to tends to be mellow music either classical, indie alternative, jazz or something like that. That is the feeling I cherish, Peace. Peace is an influence in all of my works even though it may not be the main chorus.
Obviously, none of this is the case if I’m working on a custom commission. Those pieces are very specific, intentional pieces based off of a client’s vision. I can always get into a flow state with these pieces too, however I have to remain more alert and constantly asking myself, “does this fit with the vision.” Custom commissions are much less creative in process for me, but they’re a different kind of enjoyable, they’re always a little bit of a challenge and always fun to see my vision and the clients vision become one.
What is your creative process like, and from where do you draw inspiration? Tell me below! I want to know.
I was out shopping yesterday when I came across several little trinkets and a framed portrait. I wanted to buy them, I didn’t know where to put them. I was thinking about this all day yesterday, I really loved these little pieces, but didn’t feel like I had a place for them. This is something, that I’m sure a lot of us have experienced. When picking pieces that go into your home here are some metrics for deciding what makes the cut, and what doesn’t.
- Is it beautiful?
Sometimes utility, space, or budget are more important than beauty. But if you have the option to choose something for your space, you can almost always find something that is both beautiful and within price range. The real question in my opinion is, why wouldn’t you pick something beautiful if given the chance. If the art or décor doesn’t speak to you, if it doesn’t sing, if it doesn’t move you or remind you of something good or important in some way than it’s not work your time, or a place in your home.
- Is there space?
When picking art or décor this is a question I often ask. Nothing stressed the body or mind more than a cluttered room or house. And just because there isn’t space right now doesn’t mean you can’t make space. Ask yourself, is this piece of art, or décor better than what I already have some place else? If it is, then consider getting rid of something to make room for the new décor. But adding a new piece of art to an already cluttered space detracts from the art, and stresses your space. Make room for what’s important in your life and in your space.
- Does it add to the mood?
What is the general mood or feeling you are trying to cultivate in your space? How do you want others to feel when they are in your space? How do you want to feel when you are in your room? These are important questions that need to be answered. Where we live and where we grow changes and shapes the way we see the world, and how we live and create in our spaces. If you’re trying to cultivate a calm, peaceful mood, consider if the art adds to that or detracts from that mood.
I do not think that we as people think enough about the spaces we spent most of our time in. If it’s your cubicle at work, what are you seeing every day and how do those items affect you? Is your space clean and does it help or impede your tasks? Does it bring you joy and does it lift your mood, or would you say you don’t think your space affects you? If you think you are unmoved by your surroundings then consider changing somethings in your space, little things and see if it doesn’t change your perspective.
I won a branding session with Klaire Dixius and boy was it fun! Klaire came to my home, where my in-home studio is, and we spent the morning together.
Over a glass of LaCroix we chatted about our personality types, our enneagrams numbers and so much more. Klaire was so easy going and fun to chat with I immediately felt comfortable with her. She captured my space and my process in such a lovely way, I can’t thank you enough, Klaire, for these gorgeous photos, they are such a bright spot! Check out her beautiful, ethereal work here:www.klairedixius.com and enjoy the some of these fun photos she snapped of me and Olive (the cat) in my studio!
Ok I’ll stop being self-indulgent, I’m a huge fan of Klaire’s work and so appreciate how she captured me and my space. You can follow Klaire here on Facebook, Instagram, and of course, at her website.
You can shop these pieces and other like them in the shop!